Then I phone Leland Zaitz, who was working for Francis in Melrose Park as a producer and was in the parking lot during the episode. Zaitz says he interpreted the whole thing as Francis being affectionate toward me, despite the fact that the pressure he applied was so intense that hours later, my arms were covered in red hand marks.
"He starts having fun and he realizes that most people can't keep up with him and he gets a little rough. I think it was just Joe's version of being playful and goofy," Zaitz says. "I think he was trying to bring you in closer."
When I think back on that night, our very public scuffle isn't what seems the most revealing. Instead, the moment I saw Francis most clearly--his charm, his rage, his cunning and even his regret--came later, when no one was looking. I was waiting, still shaken, outside the club for a cab to take me back to my hotel. Francis, who had disappeared inside the bus, returned.
Ignoring the two policemen who hovered a few yards away, he tiptoed past them to stand over me. He rubbed my shoulder. His gestures were oddly gentle--even fond. I felt sick.